From Casa Bonita to Linger to MGM's to Dazzle, it's all about (real Denver) atmosphere
As I sat down to pen another love letter to Casa Bonita, I realized Westword has done that many times, in some form or other. In fact, just as I love Lakeside, other writers love Casa Bonita...certainly far more than regular diners do.
My friend Rachel, in what could be the most idyllic postcard shot of the Casa Bonita fountain. Ever.
But it wasn't just a trip to Casa Bonita over this past weekend that made me want to write at length about how much I love the parts of Denver that are still very much Denver. Stops at Linger, Dazzle and MGM's Restaurant & Lounge all reminded me -- a crotchety young/old lady who likes her tea hot and her lighting appropriate -- of what gives my city a heart: the atmosphere.
- Casa Bonita is real! And it has a Facebook page!
- Comment of the Day: A new restaurant in an old mortuary leaves me cold
- Here, transplants, have Denver: It's all yours (except for Hooters)
Prior to my visit to CB -- where I go twice a year, like any normal Coloradoan -- I had dinner at Linger for the first time. As with Casa Bonita, the food did not blow me away (though otherwise, the cuisine at these two very different restaurants have nothing in common). But also as with CB, the ambiance did.
Linger is akin to CB in that it is spooky-feeling -- but Linger is supposed to feel that way. It's a restaurant in a building that housed dead people for the better part of a century, and has a menu written on a toe-tag, embalming fluid-looking bottles strategically placed throughout the place, and lighting so dim it makes the trip the bathroom feel like a walk through Black Bart's Cave (complete with a faux bridge where you pass over a "pool" of billiard balls).
The following night brought me to another place I'd never visited, even though it's fewer than ten blocks from my house: MGM's on Morrison Road. On Friday, I finally went there with some new friends who are regulars at the bar, and I walked into a dream world -- a dream world where Stevie B.'s "Spring Love" was bumping from the sound system and I was given all-you-can-drink club soda.
Pretty much exactly what my boyfriend and I look like when dancing in public.
MGM's was rad: The dance floor was packed with couples and best girlfriends dancing in a circle to Jermaine Dupri and a DJ with a sense of humor. (And by sense of humor, I mean that he projected the choreographed dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite on the wall the moment my boyfriend and I -- the two physically whitest people not just in the club but on the planet -- stepped onto the floor.)
I was a regular at Teddy's for the club-in-a-hotel-bar's '90s hip-hop night, and had been looking for a place with a similar feel. MGM's was it -- and part of that it was the atmosphere that grows in a room full of people who don't give a shit about anything and just want to have a good time. That's something I've never found in LoDo. (Oh, and the red lightbulbs in the ceiling fans at MGM's helped with the club's atmosphere, too.)
Saturday night was my trip to Casa Bonita with the Gay Social Club, a family-like group that grew during my work from 2006 to 2013 as a T-shirt and denim slanger at Shirt Folding Store. (If you've ever worked retail, then you know what kind of family I'm talking about -- it's just like your real family, complete with alcoholics, cheating spouses, a constant stream of badly translated, third-hand gossip and, most of all, love.)